Areopoli: longest day, longest walk, highest mountain …. shortest me

Thursday dawned bright and sunny.  Well, it probably did but as ever I was not around to see it.  Still, the statistical probability was pretty high given that the weather has now settled down to a truly Mediterranean ‘climate’ of cloudless blue sky and warm sunshine.  In fact the sun was potentially at its warmest today it being the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere with the sun closest to being vertical overhead.

After grovelling along the worst path of my life on Wednesday I set myself a tough challenge for Thursday to climb the other local Profitis Ilias,  Προόφιτηης Ίλιας Πύργου Δίρου the Profitis Ilias of Pyrgos Dhirou, the next village/town south of Areopoli.

Enquiries about buses to Pyrgos Dhirou indicated the earliest I would get there by that means was about 12.00 which would have meant sitting on my thumb for the morning.  So I chose the alternative which was to walk the whole way.  I seriously didn’t know if I was up to it.  I estimated crudely that it would take me 2 hours to get to the start of the path up the mountain which at 1079 metres was the highest I had tackled so far.  And it would be from sea level straight up in the heat of the day when all except mad dogs and Welshmen are sipping frappés and playing Tavli (backgammon) in the shade.   And I had to get back to Areopoli afterwards!!!

En route to the mountain I passed a pink church

With a stone above the door saying it was built in 1868, is this a 19th century graffito?

This, however, is a very modern graffito

It was hard going but not as bad as I feared.  In large part that was because I managed the route-finding OK to the mountain and the path to the top was reasonably obvious most of the way.  It was, as is always the case on such mountains, an ‘accelerating’ path, it got a lot steeper the higher it went.  But I got to the top from the hotel in 3 hours 15.

My aim was to get there by High Noon, the point in the year when the sun is highest in the sky.  Because of Summer Time correction that is 13.00.  I reached the compound of the Profitis Ilias chapel at 12.59.  I kid you not.  I steadfastly refused to look at my watchon the way up but simply kept the pace which I (hoped I) could manage from the bottom to the top.

The point of the exercise?  To take a photo of my shadow on the shortest day at the highest point.  The shortest me until the same day next year.

But then disaster.  Don’t you always kick yourself for missing the bleeding obvious!!  Sybil Fawlty has a degree in it according to Basil.  I over-elaborated and thought it would be a good idea to put my watch on the ground to record the time.  My legs were pretty tired after the climb and I found it difficult to maintain the penguin pose with my feet splayed apart and I kept toppling over.  I had thought to do it on the wall around the compound with the vertical drop back the way I had come but I’m very glad I resisted that one.

However the real idiocy of the ‘smart’ idea only struck me when I got back to the hotel and loaded the photos onto the computer.  They were completely unpublishable for reasons I just hadn’t anticipated.  The one below is the worst photographically but the only one publishable before the watershed.

The shortest me, 2012

I lolled around on top for over half an hour.  Having spent all that energy getting to the top of the world (locally at least) it seemed a shame to give it up, especially so in the knowledge that it was a long way back down …. and going down loose paths is always more risky than going up.  Going up is tiring because of overcoming the effects of gravity but going down is equally tiring because of the greater need for control.

The views from the top were more impressive than from the Profitis Ilias above Areopoli and I spent a long time soaking it all in and trying to capture it on camera.

Looking straight down the mountain to Pyrgos Dirou

Looking north to at least two other Profitis Ilias mountains, the one above Areopoli just to the right of the cross and the highest in the Taygetos in the far background

Looking west, the beach I was heading for next is bottom right

… and looking south to Cape Tenaro, the southernmost part of the Greek mainland

Eventually I gave in and headed back down to enjoy a frappé in Pyrgos Dhirou en route to the beach and a really good cooling off swim in the sea.  I said it last year and it’s true this, I’ll miss the swimming probably as much as walking in the mountains in the sunshine.

The whole trip took 8 hours including frappé-time and swimming.  Covered about 27 kms, height gain was about 1330 metres.  Easier day called for on Friday.  Then probably heading even deeper into Mani on Saturday.

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